Nature in our hearts

2012-05-21

Inter-connectedness between people and nature

Love and respect for nature is not a skill that can be taught. It is the consciousness developed through life experience that brings understanding of the inter-connectedness between human beings and nature. This kind realisation, however, has largely been obscured in modern urban life. Inspired by the pedagogical concept of nature education, PCD has joined our partners in search of paths and methodologies that can help rebuild the connection.

Nature education has its roots in both Eastern and Western philosophies which advocate learning from the nature. PCD’s partners, assigning different names to nature education, have been experimenting with its practice and are thus trying to enrich understanding of it within different local contexts.

Established as an organisation of environmentally-concerned volunteers in 2002, Beijing-based Hanhaisha sees that problems in the environment and within communities mirror those within people’s bodies and minds. They have taken up humanity education, which puts emphasis on learning from oriental and Chinese traditional culture and philosophy, from which they try to derive insights for contemplating problems facing humanity in the modern world. The group started to explore humanity education with school-aged children in 2007. The curriculum includes classics and the teachings of Laozi and Confucius, urban farming, and learning from nature. In one of these attempts ants were used as the theme for learning. Through photographs, drawings, story-telling, singing and outdoor games, children learned about the life of ants and related this to appreciating the merits of cooperation in daily life.

The Peasants’ Children’s Culture Centre (PCCC), an NGO based in Beijing, has adopted nature education as their major approach in working with children from rural areas and migrant workers’ communities in the vicinity of the capital. They envision the creation of an environment that enables children to learn for the benefit of their own personal growth, being connected to nature, and finding peace within themselves and with others in society. PCCC organises vacation camps, community-based education activities and weekend visits for children from Xiwanzi Village and Dongxiaokou Community. The idea is to base learning firmly on everyday life activities and within the local community context. Children learn from their own labour in ecological farming, conducting community surveys on local history, stories and costumes, and map-making to explore the relationships between different components of the environment.

PCD and our partners have just begun to embark on this inspiring journey. It is essential to continue experimenting, learning and reflecting on methodologies and approaches in nature education. It is also necessary to nurture the soil in which nature education can flourish. In this light, the nurturing of facilitators is also vital.